COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#10)
By Paul Semendinger
We have reached the last two-digit number of our countdown.
This number is retired, of course, for Phil Rizzuto.
The question is, should it be? Was there a better player than Phil Rizzuto who wore #10 as a Yankee?
In 1929, the first player to wear #10 was catcher Bill Dickey. He wore the number that season only. He'd get his uniform #8 retired many years later.
Benny Bengough, a catcher, wore #10 in 1930.
Arndt Jorgens, a catcher, wore the number in 1931.
Tony Rensa wore #10 in 1933. He was also a catcher. (He played all of eight games with the Yankees.)
Mike Garbark, a catcher, wore #10 in 1944 and 1945.
Frank Fernandez wore #10 in 1969. Yeah, he was a catcher.
The last player ever to wear #10, Rick Cerone, from 1980 to 1984, was also a catcher.
Pitcher George Pipgras was #10 in 1932 and 1933. Pipgras was the only Yankees pitcher ever to wear uniform number ten.
First basemen, Danny Cater and Chris Chambliss wore this uniform number. As did outfielder Roy Weatherly. Chambliss, of course, was an important Yankee on the 1970s pennant winning teams. His homer to win the 1976 American League Championship Series will live forever as one of the greatest Yankees moments.
And there were two shortstops... Phil Rizzuto and Tony Kubek.
If there is a debate between the best player to wear #10, it would come down to these two players. Is it possible that Kubek was as good as Rizzuto?
Both of these players were career Yankees. Both were on multiple pennant and World Series winning teams. They both won major awards...
I'll first look at some counting stats:
Years as a Yankee: Rizzuto 13, Kubek 9
Games: Rizzuto 1,662, Kubek 1,092
Hits: Rizzuto 1,588, Kubek 1,109
Runs: Rizzuto 877, Kubek 522
In this area, it's not close. Rizzuto wins hands down.
If we look at batting average, home runs, runs batted in, and then On-Base Percentages, Slugging Percentage, and On-Base Plus Slugging, Kubek's strengths are demonstrated. If nothing else, he was a better slugger than Rizzuto:
Tony Kubek: .266/57/373 .303/.364/.667 OPS+ = 85
Phil Rizzuto: .273/38/563 .351/.355/.706 OPS+ = 95
As noted, they were both shortstops on many winning teams:
World Series =
Kubek - 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 (3 World Championships)
Rizzuto - 1941, 1942, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955 (7 World Championships)
And they both earned league-wide recognition and won major awards:
Tony Kubek was an All-Star four times. Rizzuto was an All-Star five times.
Tony Kubek was a Rookie of the Year!
Phil Rizzuto was an MVP.
Phil Rizzuto is in the Hall of Fame.
If we go to bWAR, the case is clearly settled:
Kubek = 18.4
Rizzuto = 42.2
In the end, it isn't even close. Tony Kubek was a fine Yankee. Phil Rizzuto was the greatest Yankees shortstop not named Jeter.
HOLY COW! The greatest Yankee to wear #10 was Philip Francis Rizzuto.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.
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